As the second largest island in Scotland, the Isle of Skye is renowned for stunning scenery, good scotch whisky and a traditional Scottish folk song about Bonnie Prince Charlie. These may not be everyone’s reasons for visiting, but they were mine.
If you’ve been to Skye, (as the locals refer to it) it’s not hard to see why it ranks highly – the scenery is spectacular. The island’s rugged coastline is gouged with wave ravaged peninsulas and narrow sparkling lochs. The interior is filled with picturesque villages, forest trails, craggy mountains, and a couple of mysterious fairy glens.
But beyond the allure of the countryside, there are cosy pubs, friendly locals (some not always easy to understand) and of course, there are the obligatory whisky distilleries.
So why did I choose Skye?
I was looking for a hiking holiday in Scotland. Spoiled for choices of where to hike in the land of tartan, I chose Skye because:
- I’d heard the scenery was out of the park spectacular
- I’d never been and
- I’ve loved the Skye Boat song forever.
Confessions of an Outlander tragic
American composer Bear McCreary modified the traditional Scottish Skye Boat song for the Television Series, Outlander adapting Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “Sing me a song of a lad that is gone.”
I’m a self-confessed Outlander fan and I’ve written a few stories about Scotland and the Outlander effect. I’d feel something stirring whenever I’d hear the evocative lyrics*at the start of each Outlander episode, sung by Raya Yarborough accompanied by the bagpipes. Like being summonsed by the Pied Piper, the song was calling me to visit the country that has always held a special place in my heart.
Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye
Maybe it’s strange to confess a song helped set my sights on Skye. But go and have a listen* And tell me you’re not affected (even just a little?)
How to get over the sea to Skye
As a solo traveler looking for the hassle-free option to travel around Skye, I selected a seven-day walking tour with Wilderness Scotland. Their variety of walk locations appealed as did the guaranteed small group numbers (capped at eight.)
When to visit
“That quality of wildness, of drama and the island’s reputation for great hospitality has made Skye the crown of Scottish tourism,” says Wilderness Scotland’s Adventure Consultant David Russell. “Wherever you go in the world people have heard of the Isle of Skye. Most want to visit, and many do. In fact, the Isle of Skye has never been so popular.”
Because Skye is regularly featured in articles and blogs as a must-see location during peak season – June through August – tourist numbers soar. This is the unfortunate consequence of any destination’s popularity (think Venice, Machu Pichu, and the latest at time of writing: climbing Mt Everest.)
A 2017 BBC News article suggested Skye during peak season is “bursting at the seams,” the island’s infrastructure under increasing pressure from drive-through tourism.
Aware that some of Skye’s beauty spots are becoming overly crowded, Wilderness Scotland have deliberately chosen smaller group sizes for their tours. “We’ve redesigned our hiking itinerary to reduce negative impacts and increase positive ones and the result is not only better for the island but also an improved experience for our visitors. We have the advantage of local knowledge. Our walks are no less beautiful but less well known,” David explains. “We use accommodations in quieter parts of the island to spread the economic benefit beyond the towns and reduce pressure on them. While most people drive around Skye in a hurry and only visit a handful of ‘iconic’ places, we take longer, go slower and open our eyes to the beauty that is all around.”
Taking in the scenery at a leisurely pace: a big tick for me. That and my desire to avoid masses of tourists were deciding facctors in signing up for one of Wilderness Scotland’s first walking tours of the season, at the end of April 2018.
Indications about the weather at that time of the year suggested temperatures ranging between 7.6°C – 10.6°C.
They seemed pleasant temps for hiking and with any luck, it would also be too early for the (annoying) midges that come out late May to August. (Anyone who’s familiar with Scotland knows the weather is more than likely to change on a whim. Remembering to pack a rain jacket and a few warm layers will hopefully cover any issues.)
The journey begins
I flew to London in late April. After reacquainting myself with the capital of England for a few days (a crazy 27 years between visits, so there were a few nostalgic moments) I caught a train from London’s Euston station to Glasgow.
Two fun days looking around the city nestled on the River Clyde, before taking a train ride over to Inverness, the designated pick-up point for the start of my seven-day hiking tour.
I was waiting for my new travel buddy Amy, from London to join me for our first adventure together. It was time to test our travelling compatibility!
And I was ready to find out if I’d made the right decision on tour company and time of year to travel.
(This is part one about my Isle of Skye adventure, more to follow.)
Note: This is not a sponsored post. The writer paid for her Wilderness Scotland tour in full as well as all train travel.